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Giants add Bryan Price and Garvin Alston to coaching staff

The new pitching coach and bullpen coach, respectively.

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Getty Images (combined by McCovey Chronicles)

The San Francisco Giants have announced basically the rest of Bob Melvin’s coaching staff for 2024, and it’s another pair of familiar names.

Garvin Alston, who is not a Bay Area native, replaces Craig Albernaz as the new bullpen coach. Susan Slusser posted that news last night. He’d been the River Cats pitching coach the past two seasons. He was the 10th round pick of the expansion Colorado Rockies’ inaugural draft. He’d make it to the majors in 1996 and pitched 6 innings. He had arm surgery and was never the same after, bouncing around the minors and in Taiwan.

He became the pitching coach for the A’s Class-A Kane County Cougars in 2005 and would then stick in the organization for the next decade, his final six seasons as a minor league rehab coordinator and then a minor league pitching coordinator. He was the bullpen coach for Arizona in 2016, which means he overlapped with Matt Williams’ one-year stopover after he was fired by the Nationals. Then Alston became the A’s bullpen coach for 2017. In 2018, he was the Twins’ pitching coach.

Meanwhile, Bryan Price is a Bay Area native (Mill Valley!). This is the leading credential whenever he’s mentioned. At one point he had the reputation of a good to great pitching coach, but the evidence will show that was a long time ago now, before Statcast tracked every pitch.

  • In 2001, he earned USA Today Baseball Weekly’s Pitching Coach of the Year Award after the 116-win Mariners needed just 15 pitchers to post a team ERA of 3.54.
  • He became the Diamondbacks pitching coach in 2007 and “was named Major League Coach of the Year by Baseball America after his Diamondbacks staff posted a 4.13 ERA, fourth best in the National League.” He resigned as a demonstration of loyalty to Bob Melvin who was fired by the team in May 2009 and replaced by A.J. Hinch.
  • The Reds hired him to be their pitching coach beginning 2010. He’d become their manager (replacing Dusty Baker) beginning 2014. From 2010-2013, the Reds had the 10th-best team ERA in the sport (3.73). That’s despite pitching in the Great American Ballpark.
  • The Reds fired him 18 games into 2018 after a 3-15 start, a decision that was a bit of a headscratcher because the team had never had a winning season under Price going into that season — 76-86, 64-98, 68-94, 68-94 — and so it felt irrational to make that move after a Spring Training and everything. Why didn’t GM Nick Krall fire him in that offseason? Thing is, Krall’s still there and the Reds are an improved team now — they basically got better as soon as Price left — so it’s plausible that Price was a situation he inherited but had to wait until conditions became favorable enough for him to exercise control.

In addition to all the losing, Price’s managing resume includes this rant at a reporting for breaking some injury news the team had hoped to obscure for a bit:

His return to coaching was in 2019, for the US national softball team in the World Baseball Softball Confederation tournament, an Olympics qualifier. The team would win silver.

He signed up to be the Phillies pitching coach in 2020 (5.14 staff ERA) but abruptly retired at season’s end. “We were all shocked because he fit in so well,” said then-Phillies manager Joe Girardi. .

Bob Melvin was able to lure him out of retirement to serve as a “senior advisorHe joined Bob Melvin’s staff in San Diego as “senior advisor to the Major League coaching staff.” In last year’s press release about their coaching staff, the Padres described the position thusly:

In his role with the Padres, Price works alongside the Major League coaching staff throughout Spring Training and the regular season, serving as a both an on-field instructor and a mentor within the clubhouse.

The clubhouse, you say? Brrr. Where’d that mysterious draft come from that’s sent a chill down my spine? Eh, it’s probably nothing.

Price has big shoes to fill because Andrew Bailey — who seems bound for the Yankees to become their bench coach — did a good job. The Giants don’t yet have a Director of Pitching in place to replace the departed Brian Bannister, and maybe they won’t actually fill that position — it’s unclear if the Giants are going down the road of “we tried some things with our staff and now we’re going back to a more traditional structure” or if they’re simply taking their time to see what shakes out.

And I guess I want to get out in front of the idea that Bailey and Bannister’s contributions should be dismissed. Camilo Doval and Logan Webb’s development, the revivals of Kevin Gausman, Anthony DeSclafani, and Carlos Rodon can all be attributed in part to that pair and the extended staff. Tyler Anderson’s career revival cemented after he went through the Giants’ pitching program. Same with Drew Smyly. Jake McGee, Tyler Rogers, and all the Brebbias and Littells in between were well-served by them, too.

Of course, the Padres had a good pitching group in each of Melvin’s (and Price’s) two seasons (combined 3.77 ERA - #6 in MLB), and unlike the Giants on the road (4.55 ERA - #18) they were nearly as effective (4.05 - #11).

Teams usually go as far as their talent, and for that reason it’s probably not worth getting too hung up on who’s on the coaching staff. What’s clear is that a lot of people in baseball are loyal to Bob Melvin. That means something.

For the beat writers, they get back familiar faces, open-ended conversations, and good quotes that’ll help them make deadline. Ornery season ticketholders who with each passing year has seen their investment diminish in value get some faces and names that guarantee the Giants will return to playing the game the right way. Matt Williams and Bryan Price are each a thick round cheek of a whole red ass. It’s all on the front office now to make a winning roster with a $160 million payroll and a “pull and pray” farm system.